8 Conversion Rate Optimization Tips for Bloggers

By , February 21st, 2011 in Conversion | 36 comments
This is a guest post. The author’s opinions are entirely his or her own and may not always reflect the views of Unbounce. Today’s post is from Chase Sagum, Director of SEO at 1on1.com. He currently spends a majority of his free time blogging on his blog ChaseSagum.com where he covers a variety of Organic internet Marketing subjects including Blogging, SEO, Content Strategy, Direct Navigation, WordPress, and Site Conversion. He also finds it slightly awkward writing in the 3rd person!

Internet Marketers have been focusing on conversion rate for years but for bloggers, it’s still a relatively new topic of conversation. I’ve had discussions with dozens of bloggers over the past 6 months who all expressed their frustrations with trying to “increase conversion rates” in their blogging efforts.

Up and to the right. That’s the dream…

I have shared these same frustrations and have devoted much of my time that I normally dedicate to my blog trying to test and figure out ways to solve the blogging conversion problem. While I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, here are 8 CRO tips I have learned that can help you increase your blogging conversion rates dramatically.

Important Acronyms for this post:

  • CRO = conversion rate optimization
  • CTA = call to action

1. Dynamic Sidebar per Category

Hypothesis = Ads/CTA’s in blog sidebars will convert at a higher rate if they are closely relevant to the content the user is currently reading.

Your sidebar has the potential to be a major asset to your conversion rate if you let it. Which is why displaying a generic sidebar across every post in your entire blog is a true waste of resources. Instead… if you are using the WordPress CMS you can make a simple change to your theme that will allow you to create custom dynamic sidebars for specific categories.

This way when a visitor is reading your blog post about Justin Bieber (shame on you) you can show that visitor ads relating specifically to Justin Bieber or Pop Music etc. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to make this happen in WordPress.

2. Open Your CTA Links in the Same Window

Hypothesis = Conversions are being lost because users don’t trust links as much that open in a new window.

This trick totally varies in results depending on the blog which is why I recommend just like with most things in the world of CRO, testing and monitoring the results carefully. In my tests on ChaseSagum.com I have been able to increase my affiliate revenue by roughly 67% by simply opening all affiliate links in the same window as opposed to in a new window.

There is of course a negative with this if you are pushing affiliate offers because people are going to be leaving your page entirely. But if you are funneling people to your own sales pages than you really have nothing to worry.

3. CTA @ The Bottom of a Post Depending On The Category

Hypothesis = Ads/CTA’s at the bottom of an article will convert at a higher rate if they are closely relevant to the content the user is currently reading.

Another opportunity you have for converting a blog reader into a customer is at the bottom of the article. If your content is high quality you have a golden opportunity to tie someone into a relevant offer. But rather than just throwing a random CTA in that place you can take the opportunity to do something similar to what I mentioned in #1 on this list.

That is to load a CTA based on the category that article is assigned to. How do you do this? Open up your single.php file and put in a simple PHP if/else statement. Something like this:

<?php if ( in_category( ‘1’) ): ?>
<!– Insert code for Justin Beiber Category Ad here –>
<div id="singlefootad">
<a href="/jbeiber"><img src="/justinbeiberAd.png" alt="Justin Beiber" /></a>
</div>

<?php elseif ( in_category( array( ‘2’, ‘3’ ) )): ?>
<!– Insert code for Usher Ad here –>
<div id="singlefootad">
<a href="/usherpage"><img src="/usherAd.jpg" alt="Usher Stuff" /></a>
</div>

<?php else: ?>
<!– Insert code for generic ad here –>
<div id="singlefootad">
<a href="/generic"><img src="/genericAd.jpg" alt="Generic Stuff" /></a>
</div>

<?php endif; ?>

4. Increase Your Page Load Speed

Hypothesis Fact: The quicker a page loads for a user the better the chance you have of converting that user into a customer.

I’m pretty sure I don’t need to tell this audience the importance of page load speed when it comes to conversion. It’s important. Very important. Unfortunately many blogs today are bloated with heavy images, external javascript files, and extra unnecessary code.

The popular web development blog Six Revisions wrote a great post about specific steps you can take to speed up your web pages dramatically. These same tips apply to blogs of course.

5. Minimalize and Clean Things Up!

Hypothesis: Too much on a page can hurt conversion rates.

Blogs are traditionally messy which has a large part to do with why so many bloggers struggle with conversion. Take some time and begin to clean things up. Remember “less is more.” If you’re looking for inspiration on blogs that do a good job on this check out ZenHabits.net. One of the cleanest, most minimal blogs you will ever see.

You don’t have to take away everything, but you need to get rid of all the excess. Excess ads, excess widgets etc. This way the focus can be on your copy and your CTA’s and as long as the two relate to each other, conversions should start flowing in!

6. Funnel Traffic To Landing Pages

Hypothesis: Blog content can convert at a higher rate if you funnel your traffic to landing pages.

This is where Unbounce comes in. Many bloggers complain that blogging “doesn’t convert visitors into customers.” This is usually because they haven’t learned to funnel their readers from blog content to landing pages.

Using Unbounce you can quickly and easily create landing pages that do the converting for you. All you have to do is focus on writing copy that helps your readers make the correct buying decisions. Just take a look at some of your favorite blogs (the really popular ones) and pay attention to the ones that practice this “funneling” concept. It really works!

7. A/B Test Display Ads in Sidebar

Hypothesis: A/B testing can be performed on a blog on a consistent basis.

In blogging it can be difficult to find things to A/B test. Things like headlines and images within posts often times have other important purposes such as readability. But your Ads and CTA’s in your sidebar, footer, and other areas are perfect grounds for A/B testing.

While you’re using Unbounce to fulfill your A/B testing of landing pages, try using a tool like Google Website Optimizer to A/B test the ads/CTA’s in your sidebar and to get data back on which one performs better. Don’t just throw up some display ads in your sidebar and hope they do well. Do some testing and utilize your available space more wisely.

8. Don’t Underestimate the Conversion Power of Contextual Links Within Blog Content

Hypothesis: Users are inclined to click on contextual links within blog content if the content is of some value to them.

The non-bloggers of this Internet Marketing world tend to place a lower value on contextual links when it comes to conversion. But that’s only because they don’t understand the power of blogging. DO NOT underestimate the power contextual links can have on your conversion!

If you do a good job engaging your readers with your content and building a readership over time, the recommendations you make through that content will make a powerful impact on your conversion. And these recommendations typically will come in the form of a contextual (text) link.

Chase Sagum

Editor’s note: If you have any questions for Chase regarding his 8 CRO tips for bloggers then please fire away in the comments below…

About The Author

Photo of Chase Sagum

Chase is the Director of SEO at 1on1 Marketing. He currently spends a majority of his free time blogging on his blog ChaseSagum.com where he covers a variety of Organic Internet Marketing subjects including Blogging, SEO, Content Strategy, Direct Navigation, Wordpress, and Site Conversion. He also finds it slightly awkward writing in the 3rd person!
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Comments

  1. Rob Kingston says:

    Nice post…

    I’ll add that one of the keys to optimising a blog is to optimise for engagement metrics (comments, pageviews/visitor, pageviews/visit, social media actions and subscriptions) that is unless you’re able to track ad revenue or affiliate revenue in the testing platform or in GA.

    I think its healthy to include these as criteria in a blog test anyway.

    By the way it doesnt sound like you need more evidence about page load times, but adding to your speed point – I measured page load times on my blog in GA. It might show you what speedy pages are worth to bloggers… :)

    • Chase Sagum says:

      Great point Rob about the Engagement Metrics! I think I my article focuses so much on the revenue aspect of blogging but it failed to mention the most important part of blogging… ENGAGEMENT!

      I’ve been using PostRank.com to track social media actions. Not sure if you know of a better service or not.

  2. I don’t think I am alone to say this, but as a blogger, sidebar conversion rates remain low.

    However, what has worked well for me is blog post reviews of a product, post footer ad/link, and of course, email marketing.

    And definitely engagement.

    • Chase Sagum says:

      Have you thought of maybe integrating the two? A sidebar ad that takes the user to a blog post review of a product?

      • Christine says:

        Yes, in that case it does work – providing a link to a review in the sidebar.
        I should have clarified – I was talking those 125 x 125 ads never did much in regards to generating conversions.

  3. Rob Kingston says:

    I have blogs purely focussed on making money, where engagement is totally useless to me. But my main blog is where I want to increase engagement and build relationships, so engagement metrics are tops for that. Bloggers need to decide what provides the greatest lifetime value to their blog.

    I should checkout post rank… it sounds like its a useful tool for engagement.

    Typically I use Google Analytics to track unique clicks on my twitter link, my RSS link, comments and stuff like that. I guess I could also track links on the twitter share post link.

    • Chase Sagum says:

      Yeah check out PostRank.com. It’s not too bad but it’s not perfect. I’ve been testing using it and AddThis analytics for tracking social engagement. These are the best free tools I have been able to find so far for this.

  4. Really awesome post. We’ve recently decided to start taking our blog much more seriously than we currently are in order to start driving conversions from it.

  5. And actually, just to elaborate even further, my company designs, develops, and populates blogs for tons of people. Our constant challenge is figuring out how to convert people from these blogs in order to drive more results for our clients. This tips in this post will certainly help. I know we definitely execute a couple of them already.

  6. Nice work :)
    After installing wordpress and the “must-have” plugins there is still so much work left to be done. I find it surprising that there are so many optimization plugins out there and still you have to dig into the templates to solve certain tasks. But in the end those steps will make the difference.
    So tidy up your category structure, your templates and get Google Analytics and Webmastertools in place.

  7. Thanks for the tips. It helps to get information like this especially in the art of conversion. I do have a question: what are your thoughts on those pop ups that appear if you’re about to leave the blog area. I have seen those and frankly I myself find those annoying. Wonder if they help in the conversion if at all.

    • Oli Gardner says:

      I’ll jump in here on this one. I think everyone find those exit popups annoying – they are the worst form of interruption marketing.

      If done right (oxymoron I know) they have the potential to increase conversions slightly – but the resulting brand and trust impact makes it not worthwhile for ethical marketers.

  8. As an internet marketing and blogger, I am quite ashamed of myself for not installing a dynamic sidebar earlier.

  9. Jerrick says:

    Mostly people will click on the banner beside of the content more than the leader board and the ending of the content because reader do think the adv do related to your post.
    Increase your page loading will influence by web hosting , website design and content. One mistake i recognize here is i do like to link customer to a new tab when cross selling. Because i wish it to let customer to get an optional choice rather than direct push it to another product which i think it will bring high bounce rate as well.

  10. Refresh IT says:

    Really insightful post, especially to 2 points on CTA. Many thanks.

  11. Neal Beissel says:

    When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four e-mails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service? Thank you!

  12. Sitepro SEO says:

    This one is worth a bookmark and a mention. Do you have any data correlating page speed with conversions? How about page length? I might have to do an SEO experiment to back this up.

  13. FIRE EFFECTS says:

    Interesting article. I am glad I found it. It’s nice to read something interesting. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us! Hope to read more from you!

  14. yagi antenna says:

    I expirienced number 5 just a couple of months ago when I decided to simplify my page. Conversion rates jumped up 1.5% which is not bad =)

    cheers

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  21. Direct Sight says:

    Thanks guys we have applied some of the tips above and have noticed a 0.5 percent increase in our blogs conversion rate. This has already made a huge difference to us and its great to see other people doing the same. Best wishes Mark

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